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Child abuse

Child abuse is physical or psychological mistreatment of a child by its parents, guardians, or other adults.


Types and causes

The simplest example of child abuse is neglect, where the guardians fail to perform those tasks necessary to the well-being of the child. Another form of child abuse is Censored page which is perceived by the child as a betrayal of trust and may cause long-term trauma to the child. Other forms of abuse include physical and emotional abuse, the latter often being difficult to detect because it leaves no physical signs - scars, bruises, etc.

Many psychologists believe that, in all types of child abuse, the main advantage to the perpetrator is psychological (i.e., emotional). Frequently, perpetrators were themselves abused as children. They learned unhealthy ways of interacting with others, of exerting power (ability to influence others) and control (ability to deflect or redirect others' influence), and of disciplining children. This dynamic is responsible for the cycle of abuse in which victims of abuse feel a powerful compulsion to relive the trauma they suffered. Some people, perhaps having deeper emotional reserves (or perhaps having none), will inflict the abuse on themselves or instigate situations to force an abuser to inflict it on them. Other people, seeking control over the abuse, will become perpetrators, inflicting the abuse that they suffered on someone else. In this latter case, the perpetrator relives their trauma vicariously, by reversal with or projection into the victim. Some experts involved with genital integrity groups believe this same motive is behind circumcision, which affects over half of males in the United States.

It should be noted that while the existence of child abuse and neglect is uncontroversial, there is often great controversy whether particular acts constitute child abuse and neglect or not. For instance, what one person considers acceptable corporal punishment others may consider criminal. This applies not only between different individuals: different societies and legal systems have differing attitudes to the physical punishment of children, the withholding by parents of medical treatment on religious grounds, age-appropriate sexuality, etc.

For example, people who violently shake or beat infants typically do not see their actions as abusive, despite the well-documented consequences of their actions including neurological trauma, brain damage and death.


Medical and other types of professionals have learned to recognize a list of common symptoms of child abuse.

  • Emotional abuse
    • emotional withdrawal/distance
    • parental refusal of needed medical care
    • sexual/romantic promiscuity/neediness
    • shyness
    • stunting of mental/emotional growth
    • temper tantrums/violence
  • Neglect
    • emotional withdrawal/distance
    • general dirtiness
    • general unhealthiness
    • lice, fleas and similar parasites
    • parental refusal of needed medical care
    • stunting of mental/emotional growth
  • Physical abuse
    • emotional withdrawal/distance
    • distinctively shaped scars, most especially:
    • stunting of mental/emotional growth
    • temper tantrums/violence
    • parental refusal of needed medical care
    • Shaken baby syndrome
  • Censored page
    • emotional withdrawal/distance
    • injured vagina or anus
    • Censored page in the Censored page or Censored page
    • parental refusal of needed medical care
    • stunting of mental/emotional growth
    • unusually early preoccupation with sex

Child abuse by authorities

Schools and correctional facilities are frequently charged with child abuse. One particularly notorious program is the Tranquility Bay operation on Jamaica run by the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools.

See also

External links

  • NSPCC report on child maltreatment in the UK (November 2000)
  • Ethical Treatment for All Youth
  • - Canadians affected by foster care helping each other.
  • Anti-sex hysteria in Wisconsin
  • Child Abuse and the Handicapped Child
  • Counseling Abused Children
  • Teaching the Abused Migrant Child: What's a Teacher To Do?
  • Classroom Strategies for Teaching Migrant Children about Child Abuse
  • Therapeutic Child Protection Work
  • Best Practices in Child Protection Investigation
  • The Free E-Mail Journal of Therapeutic Child Protection Work
  • National Association to Protect Children

Further reading

  • Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society's Betrayal of the Child, Alice Miller, translated by Hildegard and Hunter Hannum, A Meridian Book, New American Library, 1986, trade paperback, 329 pages, ISBN 0-452-00801-8
  • What to do if You're Worried a Child is Being Abused , leaflet published by the UK Department of Health

Last updated: 02-06-2005 05:14:10
Last updated: 03-15-2005 09:34:27